Boxing is one of the best at-home workouts—learn how to start

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Boxing is more than just an entertaining sport to watch at the Olympics or on pay-per-view. It’s a great activity for the body and mind that you can do on your own—without having to dodge punches from an opponent. In the process, you'll train for strength, agility, and balance, and relieve some serious stress.

Boxing may seem demanding, but you don’t need to have Rocky Balboa-level dedication to learn how to box. It’s easy to start boxing at home, even with no equipment.

Learn how boxing can benefit you

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Boxing offers tons of benefits for your body and your mind.

“The benefits of boxing are endless,” says Aliyah Sims, a trainer at Rumble Boxing in New York City. “You're conditioning your mind, body, and coordination all at once. Boxing is extremely humbling and helps build not only a strong body, but also your mind and your confidence within yourself.”

In terms of physical fitness, boxing builds strength in your arms, legs, and core. All your muscles work together when you dance around your target and throw punches. Boxing is also aerobic exercise, which can help lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Additionally, punching targets can improve your hand-eye coordination, and shifting your weight back and forth as you shuffle your feet can improve balance.

Perfect your stance

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Having proper form is one of the most important steps.

Learning proper form is one of the most important parts of boxing. This will help keep you safe and give more power behind your punch. “Your stance is everything,” Sims says. “If you have a strong stance you will be more balanced and lighter on your feet. The best punches are thrown when your balance is maintained.”

Proper boxing form means standing with feet shoulder-width apart, at a 45-degree angle toward your opponent (or punching bag). Boxers are constantly moving, so your knees and hips should be slightly bent and ready to spring up and down. You should lead with the shoulder and foot of your non-dominant hand, so if you’re right-handed, your left shoulder and foot should be positioned slightly in front, and vice-versa if you’re left-handed.

Elbows should be close to your sides with your forearms shielding your chest. Your gloves should be shoulder-height, just underneath your chin, with your wrists pointed inwards toward your face.

Practice your footwork

Good boxers know how to duck, weave, and react—which means a certain amount of litheness is a must when you’re in the ring (or your living room). “Footwork is the other beast to tackle,” Sims says. “You want to make sure you can glide across the ring without stepping over your own two feet. The smaller the steps the better.”

To achieve this, you’ll need to work on your overall agility. Exercises like high-knee and side-to-side movements, especially using equipment like a ladder or a jump rope, can help you become more nimble and avoid future injury.

Learn the basic punches

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There are some basic moves you'll want to start off learning.

After working on your stance, balance, and footwork, you’ll want to tackle the six basic punches and some different defensive moves, according to Sims. They are the jab, the cross, the front and back hooks, and the front and back uppercuts.

  • The jab: The jab is intended to be a quick movement with your front, non-dominant fist. It can gauge the distance between you and your opponent, and help close that distance. Keeping your head straight and chin tucked, extend your leading arm and land the hit with your index and middle knuckles anywhere from nose to chest height.

  • The cross: The cross is a hit you land with your dominant hand, or the one farther away from your opponent. From your starting stance, pivot into your lead shoulder and extend your dominant hand from behind, straight forward. Make sure to keep your weight centered and be prepared to keep moving as you retract your arm.

  • The hook: The hook is one of the more difficult moves to master but can also be one of the most powerful. The hook is thrown with your arm parallel to the floor from the outside in. A lead, or front, hook is thrown with your leading arm. Shift your weight into your leading leg and follow through with your leading arm. The rear, or back, hook is thrown from behind, pivoting your body to land the punch with more force from your dominant fist.

  • The uppercut: The uppercut is all about leg power. To throw this punch, get low into a staggered-stance squat position, and keeping either arm at a 90-degree angle to your body, drive upward (as if you were aiming for a chin).

Sims says some basic defensive moves to learn include the duck and the slip. The duck is when you duck down to avoid a punch. Bending your knees, squat just low enough to avoid your opponent, and then drive from your legs right back up into your boxing stance. The slip is when you move your head from side to side to avoid a hit. To slip properly you’ll want to move from your legs, not your spine or neck, bobbing laterally by bending your knees. With practice, you’ll be able to combine both of these skills to "dance" around the ring.

Get the right equipment

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You don't need much to start boxing at home.

You don’t need much equipment to start boxing. “You really do not need a thing to get started,” Sims says. “When I first started, the only thing I needed was my two fists and a goal.”

When you’re starting off at home, a good skill to practice is shadowboxing, or a form of boxing in which you throw punches at an imaginary opponent and dodge their imaginary retaliation. “After shadowboxing, you’ll start to incorporate a jump rope for warming up and building stamina," Sims says. "Then you’ll want to invest in hand wraps to protect your knuckles and wrists and a pair of quality gloves to progress to the heavy bags or mitt work.”

Jump ropes are a cheap, widely available piece of equipment that are a great investment for boxers. Jumping rope improves your coordination and helps work the cardiovascular system and lower body. If you’re getting a rope specifically for boxing warm-ups and cross training, look for something lightweight that allows you to move quickly. One good option is the Jumella jump rope, available in a pack of two for about $6. Reviewers love how easy it is to adjust its length and implement into different workouts.

Hand wraps are used among boxers to protect knuckles, fingers, and wrists from injury that can be caused by the impact of punching a target. For a durable and comfortable option, try Sanabul hand wraps. Reviewers say they last longer than some other brands, and are the perfect balance between stretchy and sturdy. The wraps’ polyester material also helps wick sweat, preventing hands from growing soggy or sticky during workouts.

If you decide you want boxing to become a regular part of your at-home workout routine, you’ll work your way up to a bag and gloves. The Everlast New Omniflex Freestanding Heavy Bag is a great option for those who are working out at home and has a sturdy base that lets it stand in place—ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to hang a heavy bag from the ceiling.

Whether you’re hitting a bag at home or at the gym, you’ll want gloves to protect your hands. The Sanabul Essential Gel boxing gloves are highly recommended. They have a 4.7-star rating with over 16,000 reviews on Amazon, where reviewers praise these gloves’ durability and comfort.

Practice, practice, practice—with whatever resources you have

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Whether you're boxing at the home or the gym, keep practicing.

You can find plenty of free online shadowboxing workouts on YouTube, so you can use them as a resource to learn the boxing basics without committing to equipment or a membership. For a small fee, you can sign up for a workout app that includes boxing workouts, such as Aaptiv, which has multi-week boxing programs, or a boxing app like Shadow Boxing Workout, which offers completely customizable workouts that you can alter based on the equipment you have and what types of movements (like footwork, defensive positions, or punches) you want to focus on.

If you want to learn the basics with top-notch equipment, you can invest in a system like FightCamp, a connected interactive boxing system. With FightCamp, you’ll get a set of motion trackers to place inside boxing gloves and/or hand wraps. As you follow along with its guided videos, FightCamp tracks your movement and provides real-time feedback on the quality of your punches. Another way to take advantage of FightCamp’s resources without shelling out the cash is through its blog, where instructors post tips on how to box, combos to work your offense and defense skills, and other workouts to develop your strength, agility, and stability.

Stay safe

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Take the proper precautions to stay safe.

Boxing is a great workout, but it’s also an intense sport. If you get serious enough about it that you’re boxing several times a week, Sims recommends working with a trusted trainer and using proper protective gear to stay safe while exercising. “The more you focus on your foundation of footwork, core activation, and proper rotation on punches, the less vulnerable you are to injury,” she says.

If you have a shoulder injury or a lower body injury, Sims recommends taking time to heal. However, she says workouts can be modified for injured boxers, and you should talk to a trainer if you want to continue boxing with an injury and see what’s possible.

“I’ve had clients that are pregnant come take class, even a client with a broken leg,” she says. “If there’s a will, there’s a way. Boxing is for everyone.”

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